Where will you be living in 2016? It could be in downtown Olympia because 217 residential units are set to open this year.
Here’s what’s on tap:
▪ The 123 4th Olympia Apartments, a 138-unit development under construction in the heart of downtown, will feature 22 different apartment floor plans, including one townhouse. The first floors are expected to open in March. Rents will range from about $700 to just less than $3,000.
▪ Campus Lofts & townhomes, a 43-unit development near the east Capitol Campus that is converting a former office building into 36 apartments and adding seven townhomes next door. It is expected to open in May. Rents will range from $950 to $1,500.
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▪ The 321 Lofts, a 36-unit apartment building, is rising from the ground on the lot adjacent to the Thurston First Bank Building and Three Magnets Brewing Co. It is expected to be finished in July. Rents will range from $800 to $1,100.
So why all the downtown housing? Because there is demand for it, said Pat Rants, president and chief executive of The Rants Group, a commercial real estate company. The Rants Group handled leasing earlier for the Franklin Lofts at the Thurston First Bank Building and expects to handle leasing for the Campus Lofts and 321 Lofts.
Rants said occupancy rates remain high in the property the group manages downtown. “When units become available they fill up fairly quickly,” he said.
And it’s not just the young who want to live downtown, Rants said. It also includes professionals who want to live in an urban setting, state workers who want to walk or bus to the Capitol Campus, and those who don’t own cars.
Although downtown living may appeal to those without cars, all of the developments will have parking.
Twenty units already have been preleased in the 123 4th apartments, said Zach Strong of commercial real estate business Prime Locations. He is overseeing the residential leasing of the building.
For those seeking an urban lifestyle, the development will come equipped with bicycle lockers as well as showers next to those lockers, he said.
The developer plans to bring the Japanese noodle restaurant Kukai Ramen & Izakaya to retail space at Fifth Avenue and Columbia Street to serve new urban dwellers and others, Strong said.
The 321 Lofts and Campus Lofts are yet more projects undertaken by Walker John, a local developer rapidly becoming more prominent.
To date, he has redeveloped the Cunningham building at Fourth Avenue and Adams Street into mixed-use; turned the former state Department of Personnel building at Legion Way and Franklin Street into the Thurston First Bank Building, and has two more projects underway, including the Campus Lofts.
Olympia architect Ron Thomas, who has worked closely with John on his projects, said the Campus Lofts represent another example of “adaptive re-use,” turning vacant office space into housing.
Thomas estimates the Olympia area is home to 1 million square feet of vacant office space, and it is space that may never be reoccupied at previous levels.
By converting the former office building into the Campus Loft apartments and building townhomes with front porches, stoops and landscaping, it will “activate” the 12th Avenue Southeast and Jefferson Street Southeast area, he said.
“It’s an urban planning principle that helps an entire community,” Thomas said.